All The Books I Read: January - March 2016

Books. They are happening. They are happening to me and entering my brain like word-based viruses or repetitive desires for cheesecake. I've not set an official number goal for reading this year (last year I wanted to read fifty but I came up short), but instead I decided to just try to read as many books as I could comfortably and happily read. I've personally found this approach much more encouraging and my total as of the first quarter of the year and the end of March is sixteen. Good job, me.

In this post I'm going to run through every book I've read in 2016 so far and give a general overview of what I've enjoyed and what my readings habits have looked like. I think this is a nice way of assessing my pattern of reading and doing a succinct round-up. Talking about three months of books feels like a nice balance between a too sparse book selection and "woah buddy slow down now, that is too many books, seriously please stop throwing books in my face". So here goes. Here are all the books I've read in the first three months of the year.

1. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) - Felicia Day | ★★★★★

I started off the year beautifully with this absolute gem. I really enjoy a bit of humorous quirky celebrity autobiography type business, but this book showed me that they can reach a level of relatability and humanness that I've not quite seen before. I love the way Felicia talks about her experiences with perfectionism, depression, and sometimes toxic video gaming. She is funny in such an incredibly down to Earth way that I really admire. I love her now. A lot. Thanks Felicia.

2. Welcome to Night Vale - Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor | ★★☆☆☆

I was never really into the Welcome to Night Vale podcast that much but I do appreciate its short form absurdist humour and pure unadulterated weird. Having said that, the novel disappointed me. I thought it might be more accessible to me or that it might work in a fun and different way as a novel, but what really happened here in my opinion is a really misaligned story and ultimately quite a boring plot and character dynamics. The story starts off with intrigue, but becomes a sort of muddling combination of weirdnesses, some of which you're supposed to be invested in and some of which you're supposed to shrug off. When literally everything is weird, weirdness itself doesn't work so well as a narrative device or plot twist. It needs something to contrast with in order to be engaging. Despite my initial interest in the uniquely humorous voice of Night Vale, it wasn't enough to drive this as a novel for me. The plot is barely there. The best thing I can say for it is that there were plenty of one-liners that made me laugh out loud, but a novel needs more than that.

3. The Little Android - Marissa Meyer | ★★★☆☆

This is a beautiful little retelling of The Little Mermaid with a robotic edge. Nice and succinct, nice and heart-wrenching, emotive, and hopefully a nice introduction to the world of the 'Cinder' series (I'm hoping to read that sometime soon).

4. Pretty Little Liars - Sara Shepard | ★★★☆☆

These kinds of teen girl high school drama books are not usually my thing, but after a close friend told me about how the Pretty Little Liars series got her into creative writing, and after I'd seen the TV series advertised a lot, I decided to give the first book a try, and I really enjoyed it! The sense of mystery and suspense is quite nicely done, and the characters are all well woven together.

5. Flawless - Sara Shepard | ★★☆☆☆

I continued the Pretty Little Liars series and found my tolerance for it waning a bit. Some of the plot developments in this instalment irritated me, but I think for me this is a series possibly best progressed through intermittently. I still think the suspense is well done, and the unseen antagonist keeps the story compelling and chaotic. I fully intend to come back to the series after a break and see how things progress.

6. Hotel World - Ali Smith | ★★★★☆

I really liked Hotel World. It tells the intertwined stories of four people who are all connected to a hotel. One of them is a ghost, and that narrative in particular was my favourite in all its childlike glee and forgetfulness of the details of living. Ali Smith uses lots of stream of consciousness stylings in her stories here, and I love it. I love the way all the stories flow into each other and everything is connected. It's spooky and dreamy, but it feels very real and visceral.

7. The Mist - Stephen King | ★★☆☆☆

I think I like the concept of The Mist more than I ultimately like the story. I'm not a fan of the random and unthinking infidelity of the protagonist (it serves to make me not care about him at all, and thus makes the story somewhat hollow for me). However, the spooky, fraught atmosphere is nicely done, and there are lots of interesting characters and responses going on in here. It feels a bit like an unfinished and more callous version of Day of the Triffids, which is one of my favourite books.

8. The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros | ★★★☆☆

This is an odd, short novel made up of diary entries by a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago and talking about her experiences of being poor, having friendships with different kinds of girls, dealing with boys, and so on. It's a really nice read, and I loved the disjointed diary feel and the sense of tween innocence. There are some touching moments and some funny ones. Overall I thought this book was a really charming exploration of lots of different topics and events and relationships within an engaging diary framework.

9. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card | ★★☆☆☆

This is a militaristic sci-fi story about a super intelligent six year old who goes into training to fight bug-like aliens. I found a lot of the narrative quite unappealing and repetitive (Ender has a lot of fights, some cliché questions about whether or not he's intrinsically violent, and is basically perfect at everything), but the interesting part of the book for me was near the end, when we learn more about what the 'buggers' actually are. Therein the story begins to feel like it is going somewhere. Sadly, the rest of the book feels like a dull slog through some poorly-executed attempts at political and social commentary.

10. Room - Emma Donoghue | ★★☆☆☆

Room is an incredibly hyped novel about a little boy, Jack, and his mother, who trapped in a room (him since birth, and her for seven years). It's an interesting concept, but unfortunately I felt that the whole book felt quite empty. It is written from Jack's point of view, and this makes for some exasperating and irritating prose. His voice seems very inconsistent - one minute he is using babbling baby talk, and the next using excessively complex words for a five year old. The book focuses on Jack and ma's adjustment to life once they escape their room, but rather than feeling poignant and explorative, it all felt quite emotionless and dull to me. I found the characters quite transparent and I couldn't bring myself to care much about them despite the emotionally charged circumstances of the plot. For me, it just wasn't explored in a way that felt real, or even particularly sympathetic.

11. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte | ★★★★☆

I started reading this one because I wanted to try out Google Books on my phone, and I found Jane Eyre for free and thought "that'll do." I'm so glad I did, because I love it. There are some serious twists and turns in this book, and a heavy dose of calamity for Miss Jane Eyre, but what's striking is her resilience and commitment to her beliefs and her strength throughout. We start off with Jane as a child, which is fun, and introduces us to her thoroughly unfortunate start in life and simultaneously, her determined and just nature. There is plenty of heartbreak and some exquisite moments of joy expertly woven through the plot, and Jane is so uplifting and encouraging through it all. She is a wonderful character, and she tells her story beautifully.

12. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith | ★☆☆☆☆

This is an odd one. I expected it to be silly, of course, and it is. Mr Darcy even makes a testicle joke more than once. There are some great uses of humour in the zombie edition of an already very witty classic, but I think some of it is quite ill-matched. Seth Grahame-Smith changes lots of details that in turn change the dispositions of a lot of the characters, and I think that's a shame. I'd much rather read a zombie Pride and Prejudice which retains the original characters and the historical conventions than one that turns Lizzy Bennet into a bloodthirsty warrior ready to stab Darcy at any moment. It dampens the more subtle, smirking sarcasm that made her such an enjoyable character to read in the first place. On the other hand, the ball scenes can be more fun with the looming sense of an impending undead beheading. I just wish it felt less erratic and more in keeping with the tone, wit, and characterisation of the original text.

13. The Star Diaries - Stanislaw Lem* | ★★★★☆

This was one of the greatest, oddest, and most 'me' books I read across these three months. It's formed of a series of connected short stories detailing the narrator's encounters with amusingly shaped aliens and confusing breaks in the space-time continuum. I love the way the stories are distinct, but create a whole picture, I love the silly humour (including some brilliant acronyms) which echoes the Douglas Adams school of funny sci-fi that I adore, and I love Ijon Tichy's resigned meandering through a thousand awkward intergalactic experiences and punch ups with himself from different days of the week.

14. The Wander Society - Keri Smith* | ★★★★☆

Keri Smith has written this lovely book exploring the everyday adventure. She details her findings of an apparent society of wanderers who have made Walt Whitman their icon. The book is such a nicely put together ode to loving your surroundings and drawing inspiration from them, offering instructions for wandering, and lots of introspection. I'm really into this and I think it's full of great ideas.

15. Someone Like You - Roald Dahl* | ★★☆☆☆

As much as I love Roald Dahl (and I do), this short story collection really doesn't do him justice in my mind. It does have my very favourite one, Lamb to the Slaughter, but a lot of the other stories compiled here feel like they are unfinished or are just unpleasant with none of the winking, impish humour or astonishing revelations that Dahl is so good at. Also, in this edition there is a foreword by Dom Joly in which he gives away a bit of plot, so I wasn't a big fan of that.

16. Josie and the Pussycats - Cathy East Dubowski* | ★★☆☆☆

This was left in an office clear out pile and I saw the incredible and quintessentially 2000s cover and I had to read it. Funnier than your average cringy pre-teen book of little substance, what I mostly enjoyed about this book was its playful absurdity, e.g. when Jack Black is murderously wielding a baseball bat and singing Blue Öyster Cult's '(Don't Fear) The Reaper'. And you know, it has an eight-page colour insert with photos from the film, so obviously I'm sold.


I'm quite happy with the mix of things I've read so far this year, although I do want to focus on more new releases across the rest of the year as it's really fun to be aware of what's being published right now and to be part of a very current reading community and culture. However, it's nice to read an eclectic selection of things too! Whatever I read in the next eight months of the year, I just hope I have fun and enjoy it.

* For the sake of transparency, books introduced to me via my three week work experience stint with Penguin Press in March are marked with a star.

Diary: zzzZZ Zz zzZZZzz zZzzz

This week my diary has been more of a sleep diary, by which I mean it's been me going on about being sleepy again. Maybe I'm having a hormonal time. Maybe I need to eat bigger sandwiches. Maybe my sudden reduction in tea consumption has dissolved all of my energy. Who knows? All I know is I'm sleepy.

I took the opportunity over Easter weekend to lounge around and watch films. I watched all of the first three Home Alone films back-to-back, a good portion of A Goofy Movie, and The Heat, which I love now. A little bit of The X-Files was also absolutely necessary.

An important highlight of the week that I'd like to talk about is that two dogs took a strong interest in me on Saturday. That was very validating and nice. Notice to all dogs: Please come over and smell me any time you like. Thanks.

The PG Tips Monkey: Up Close & Personal

I am quite into tie-in tea brand merchandise. I always liked the PG Tips adverts with chimps in them. They were cute. I have an extensive set of Tetley Tea Folk huddled together in one of my kitchen cupboards. At the moment, though, my favourite tea mascot is the PG Tips knitted monkey, named Monkey (imaginative, I know). I have a him by my side right now, wearing a very stylish dressing gown.

Behold, as Monkey himself strikes a pose in these beautiful fashion images. I am his confidante, you see, and he has graciously allowed me to work with him on a candid photoshoot. He's a mysterious character. An enigma. A fashion icon. Look at him.

What you don't know is that he's actually my brother. He left home to pursue his acting dream at a young age and left his poor little sis monkey-less for a while. You'll be pleased to know that now we're the best of friends again, and he often brings back a banana from his lengthy trips to the supermarket. I'm making this post in appreciation of my sweet bro because it's important to recognise my closest family, and also tea. Thanks bro.


I have become really into just drawing dots for eyes and noses lately. It's so simple and cute. If I have a spare moment I like to doodle some cute little pals, they add a little bit of fun and joy to anything. I decided to have some fun with doodling on the computer today because I'm just having a bit of a prolonged digital enjoyment time, reminiscing about computer stuff that I have liked a lot for a long time. I love computers. Cute computers.

I like the blockiness of un-smoothed lines. I like the quirks of the technology. I even like that hideous shade of neon turquoise that MS Paint always had alongside all the other relatively normal default colours, in a way. That one's a stretch though.

Pretty much, I love the charm of simple programs and features of the computers I use now and the computers I used when I first used computers. I still think text adventure games are the coolest. I still think the dial up noise is great. I still love the little sound pieces Brian Eno did for Windows. Most of all, however, I love what is accessible. I love the simple art and editing software that comes already installed on Macs and PCs alike. I love the ease of doing simple drawings, playing with lines and colours, and I will always be grateful that I can do that so easily and happily.

So here are my 'digital post-it notes' of the day, I guess. They make me feel happy and satisfied in a particular way that's different from when I'm drawing or painting a bit more seriously (not that I am ever usually that serious as a human being), and I love how they force me to be extra casual and flippant about drawing. I like anything that encourages that, because I think it's very important to be constantly reminded to just do stuff. Just draw stuff.

Movement (Online)

Here are some small weekend movements of mine in gif form, because animated gifs are a strange and fun way to convey a tiny sense of movement, and I like them a lot. It's weird thinking about the cultural significance of gifs to people of my generation. All the blinking Livejournal icons and glitter graphics, and some of the earliest gifs I made of myself being silly for my Bebo profile picture. Those were glorious days, full of glorious gifs.

In particular though, I like the use of gifs on Tumblr, in this particular way, as an extension of a picture of yourself. You, as normal, but with a little extra. That little bit of movement that adds a bit of reality. A bit of humanness. A nice, neat little bit of you, with the mess of movement included. With a reference to your constant breathing, your endless movement as a living creature.

It's a nice acknowledgement of your fleshy, squishy, real self. I like seeing pictures of my friends and people I follow in various places online, and I also like the stop motion reminder that they are really alive, and there, and breathing, and moving.

So look, I'm alive. I blink, and breathe, and my clothes crumple as I shift around on cushions, and things are happening all the time. It's nice. An oscillating reality and a comforting constance.

Pasta, I Love You

Hello beautiful and accomplished reader who has no doubt consumed many a bowl of pasta with finesse (that's why you're accomplished). Sometimes when you write a blog post you just have to write several paragraphs about that one thing that was in your head for no particular reason when you opened the post editor. And that thing for me, just now, was pasta. So please prepare for a wild ride through the pasta-worshipping land I refer to as 'my brain'. Seatbelts are mandatory.

You may well have guessed that I have eaten pasta today. It was a daring mix of two different pasta shapes, because I had a tiny bit left over in one packet that was different to all the other pasta. A lone wolf in the pasta cupboard. I mean, a lone pasta. You know what I mean. The point is, it was an exciting saucepan of intermingling pasta shapes. It might actually be too thrilling for some people to combine pasta shapes, but not for me. I'm adventurous and cool when it comes to pasta.

I just wrote this post and ode to my love and immense appreciation of pasta on a post-dinner high, so feelings were heightened, endorphins were unleashed (big thanks to my endocrine system for giving me the pasta emotions), but nevertheless my love for pasta is true, and it will last forever. It is a true modern love story. It's like Romeo & Juliet except no one dies and I eat a lot and also it's nothing like Romeo & Juliet in any way, because true love isn't about infatuated children dying, it's about me eating stuff.

One day I hope a dictionary gets printed with a picture of me and a big bowl of pasta illustrating the 'love' entry. That would be good.

Auto Pilot Sleepy Brain

Sleepiness befuddles me in such a pleasing way sometimes. There's a clarity in the fuzz of it. A peculiar force like a guiding tunnel. If I am tired, and going to bed soon, I can be so singularly devoted to completing one particular task. I assume this is my body urging me towards sleep by working to be attentive to whatever it is I am refusing to postpone until after I have gone to bed and had a weird dream and woken up. I appreciate it, but I also feel a bit mean. I have to push myself sometimes, but I feel like two segments of a body - one who is making the other do stuff for no reason. I'm sorry, body.

But that made me think of how we discover and decide what's important to us, and what to work on at any one time. How do I decide whether to make a sandwich or put my washing away first? Or on a grander scale, how we order the big priorities in our lives? How do we decide to divide up our time? How do we choose our commitments? I know there's a lot of things we fall into, individually. I also know there's a lot of things, a lot of modes of being, that are expectations we're brought up with. We might devote a lot of time and energy to things we feel we ought to do, or to things that are a means to an end (when the end is the thing we really want).

It's hard to hold all these considerations in my head at once and understand what is right about my choices and trajectories. That's why, I guess, I like the auto-pilot brain of my tired self. My "hurry up and go to bed" self. That self has no time to think about it. On the other hand, I have to think about it. I have to try to know if I'm doing the right stuff. If I'm dividing myself in a way that makes sense. I worry that I'm just giving energy to the wrong things sometimes. But maybe it's all a false sense of gravity. Maybe the sleep brain is the best brain. Maybe I should trust in my body's auto pilot. I don't know what's best.

Magazine Collages: My Son / Cutting The Old / Be More Adventurous

I made some magazine collages and I feel really good about these because I picked out some nice body part cuttings (hands and mouths and faces and hair) and a lot of (oddly sinister) nonsense words and phrases and they just feel like perfect expressions of myself right now. A little tired and chaotic and gently sunny, tender and minutely delirious. With these I love the nice, classic serif fonts, golden sunset light, touching hands, and the sea. All good things.

Diary: Bunnies & Letters

I've been feeling very sleepy this week. You can tell because I keep writing "I'm sleepy" like it's new information. I tried some new Twinings green tea flavours - Gingerbread and Cherry Bakewell. I'm thinking of starting a career as a tea critic.

I've been drawing more and more bunnies and I'm so glad they've become such a central theme. I love them a lot. I have also been thinking about how much I like business casual as a dress code. Mostly because I've realised that my standard and ideal mode of dress fits into that category. I feel neat and also very myself when I wear those clothes. I think everyone should be able to go to work feeling comfortable in what they're wearing.

I found an exciting heart-shaped sequin on the ground and I thought I would take it and use it to mark the day. I like to notice things I see in the street and sometimes I think I should bring a rock or a leaf home, but I never do, so it was nice to bring this little sequin home this time.

I have also been thinking about novel-writing because it's still a thing I feel a strong desire to do every so often and I just can't even fathom it, in a way, it's so weird as a cultural practice. I always want to tell a story in five hundred words. I always want to tell a story in one letter, actually. Just the letter R. That's the story today. R.

5 Greatest Pictures Of Young Me

Here are some beautiful images I have compiled to make a 'best of' post about the times when my childhood overlapped with a camera. All five of these are probably quite representative of myself at any age. Let me show you how exceptionally great and cool I am/was.

1. Me and Meryl.

Here I am on my bed in the late '90s. Please notice the Teletubbies and Pingu stuff on my wall. I had exceptional taste back then. I named this bear 'Meryl' after a friend. More people (and bears) should be called Meryl, I think.

2. Me tormenting my cat and wearing a Scyther t-shirt.

I miss this t-shirt whenever I look at this picture. Scyther was one of my favourite Pokémon. A very cool Pokémon. A scythe Pokémon. Essentially the grim reaper, but also a bug (#goals). Also my cat probably wanted me to go away absolutely all the time. Like the way most people feel now, whenever I'm around.

3. Me with my mum's immense collection of Beanie Babies.

I don't think I need to say anything about this. It's just the best.

4. Me time travelling.

I'm not sure what the story is here. Did I have a baby? They erase your memory when you come back to the future, so I really can't say. I looked cool though.

5. Me and my dad practising architecture.

Duplo was a wonderful and good toy brand to have and I am glad it existed when I was a stylish young nappy-wearer so that I could enjoy dreams of a lucrative career in construction and/or architecture and/or running a small village with a population of three. Those were the days.

Authentic Life Blog 2016 Wow

Hi, here is an exciting and fascinating blog post detailing me, today, existing.

First of all, the bunhead life is going well. I have trapped my hair into an orb and it is good. Secondly, I have been drawing some fun stuff in Paintbrush this afternoon because I love fun. Paintbrush and other similar software is always a fun and exciting time for me. A strong hobby. My favourite thing about Paintbrush in particular is the colour selection window. So many options. I'm a big fan of the CMYK sliders because they make it so easy for me to find nice, matching, warm hues. I tried out this leafy green and mustard yellow combo and I am very pleased with it. Congratulations, colours, you are doing well!

I think it's so easy to fall into thinking of your blog categories and post types as super important and to feel this need to be consistent and smart in style, and whilst those are perfectly fine goals, I gotta remember to be silly and flippant and flexible in the documentation of various little bits and pieces. I can definitely see that my writing style and photos have improved and keep improving, to some degree, but regardless it should be no problem for me to put in some weird, unfinished drawings or casual webcam photos. I started this blog talking about hanging around in a shopping centre and looking at kids' magazines and trying on clothes and it was super casual, and that spirit is still important to me.

This is a diary at its core, after all. A way for me to assess and categorise and re-examine lots of things in my life and a way for me to tell stories and have fun and be me. A way for me to make constant One Direction references that will never date. An adventure. And you can't have an adventure if you always stick to the rules.